FIREFLIES

You Were Mine

Bass player Lee Reynolds started a band in Brooklyn around 1957 with two guitarists, Richard Ziegler and Carl Girasoli. They came to be known as Fireflies, remembered primarily for a ballad, "You Were Mine," about teenage love long past, a song on which drummer and songwriter Paul Giacalone pinned his showbiz hopes and dreams. But that happened a little later; rock and roll was the trio's first priority. Reynolds, born in Knoxville, Tennessee but raised in Brooklyn as were the others, had some ideas about getting noticed.

They headed to Broadway in Manhattan in 1958 and began auditioning for music industry booking agents, meeting up with Gerry Granahan, who'd previously made Lee's acquaintance. Gerry was having a great year, first as the creator of an in-name-only (but later real) group, Dickey Doo and the Don'ts ("Click Clack," "Nee Nee Na Na Na Na Nu Nu"), then with a top 40 hit ("No Chemise, Please") using his own name. Gerry produced the trio, along with some session musicians, on an instrumental Carl had written, "The Crawl," picked up by Roulette Records and released under the name The Fireflys. The single didn't happen, Girasoli didn't stick around long and neighborhood pal Giacalone came on board as a much-needed drummer. Shortly afterwards they added a fifth member, saxophonist John Viscelli, also from Brooklyn.

Granahan liked Giacalone's love song, written about a crush he'd had on a girl a few years earlier. He sang on a demo of "You Were Mine," figuring it might make a good follow-up to his not-so-serious "Chemise" hit. Unhappy with the result, he used guitarist Ziegler, who'd been doing lead vocals at the group's gigs and had begun going by the name Ritchie Adams. The finished master featured girlish backing singers behind Ritchie's gently longing vocal; Granahan figured the flip side, "Stella Got a Fella," a rough-edged rocker more in line with the group's style, was the potential hit, but Giacalone and the guys outvoted him, as did Dick Clark a short time later. Carl knew two businessmen who'd started a record company, Ribbon, and it became the first release on the short-lived label, credited this time to the correctly-spelled Fireflies, but without the "The."

Fireflies

The "Stella" side was nixed by American Bandstand host Clark, who then supplied frequent TV spins to "You Were Mine" as radio followed suit. The July release connected that summer in many east coast cities before blowing up out west, hitting number two in Los Angeles and number one in San Francisco, ultimately landing in the top ten of many stations throughout the nation. It reached the Cash Box top ten in November, but curiously halted at number 21 on Billboard. "I Can't Say Goodbye," penned by Paul De Maya, Jimmie Crane and Philip Tucker, a fine effort that credited Ritchie Adams on the label under the Fireflies name, was popular in only a handful of cities. Playing all their own instruments, the band at least had an advantage over vocal groups when it came to getting hired for live shows. There was one more Ribbon single in the spring of 1960, "Because of My Pride," and one for Canadian American, "Marianne." Unlike the first single, these also-rans had ballads on both sides, so deejays weren't even given the option of spinning livelier B side selections.

A couple of similarly-conceived solo singles by Ritchie appeared before Ribbon Records closed up shop late in the year...but not before an attempt was made to recycle the label's biggest hit. The Paulette Sisters, sounding very youthful (considering they'd been around since the mid-1940s) did an inside-out version of "You Were Mine" titled, logically, "I Was Yours," featuring male backing singers in place of the girls in the original. Adams went solo in 1961, but Lee Reynolds kept the Fireflies going, doing a few singles for the small Taurus label including "You Were Mine (For Awhile)" in 1962, a blatant soundalike of the band's hit that ran one minute and 20 seconds...destined to fail! Singles popped up intermittently, on Taurus, as late as 1968.

Ritchie Adams, on the other hand, sang teen tunes for Beltone Records in 1961, sounded more soulful at Imperial in '62 and varied his approach at Congress in '64 and '65. In 1966, he took his shot at reviving "You Were Mine" on MGM, under producer Teddy Randazzo's watch. Several other singles by Ritchie appeared in the 1970s and '80s...without success. When it came to composing songs, that was a different story; his entry into the elite of '60s songwriters came in 1961 with Bobby Lewis's Beltone recording of Ritchie and Malou Rene's treatise on the connection between love and sleeplessness, "Tossin' and Turnin'," the number one single of the entire year...hard to top that! He penned hundreds of songs in collaboration with other songwriters, notably "What a Walk" by Lewis, "Fly by Night" by Andy Williams, Ronnie Dove's 1966 hit "Happy Summer Days" and, in collaboration with Mark Barkan, "The Tra La La Song," the theme from 1969's animated series The Banana Splits. He and Ron Dante co-produced a similar project, This is Love, the final album for comic book/cartoon band The Archies in 1971. One of Ritchie's biggest hits was "After the Lovin'," composed with Alan Bernstein and crooned convincingly by Engelbert Humperdinck in 1976.

- Michael Jack Kirby




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You Were Mine